Why I’m Not Looking Forward To Christmas

Chris Cook

Chris Cook

Director of Care Initiatives

Is it okay to love Jesus but dread Christmas?

The store decorations have been up for a month now. Family calendars are bursting with all kinds of commitments. Traffic around the malls is already maddening and hasn’t even reached its peak.

But I’m not talking about that.

Even if all of the Christmas preparation was swept aside and I was able to enjoy all of the benefits of the holiday free from its crushing expectations, I’m not looking forward to Christmas this year.

Why? This year and going forward, a place at our family’s celebration table is going unoccupied.

In the early morning a few days before Thanksgiving, I was dozing at my father’s bedside and realized that I didn’t hear his breathing any more. He had been under the able care of hospice for a couple of weeks and had quietly slipped away. Sixteen years of taking care of aging parents was at an end.

And in the same moment, a hole opened up in my life and heart that that can never be filled by anything that this earth can offer. And even as I write this, I am again aware of the dull ache in my gut.
I really miss my dad.

I love the way he so faithfully served our family by taking an hourlong commute to his job in Detroit from our farm near Ann Arbor so that we could enjoy a life in our community of four generations.

I love the character he modeled when my mom had her stroke. He dropped his plans for a well-deserved retirement. I learned more about the sacrificial love of Christ by the way he tenderly cared for her.

I love the way he tried his best to stay engaged after we sold the farm earlier this year to move him closer. Even when the days exhausted him at 87 years old, he still found the energy to ask my daughter how her day went when we came by for an after-school visit over vanilla pudding.

I count myself lucky to have known him – and it makes the letting go that much tougher.

I know I’m not the only one struggling with grief or loss this Christmas. I’ve officiated a lot of funerals for a lot of families at this time of year; but no matter what season it happens, the pain of loss seems more pronounced when we have a thousand media streams telling us to paint on a smile of Christmas cheer and go buy something.

So I – and all of us in the strange and dubious fellowship of shared loss – have a difficult choice to make:
We can toughen up and harden our hearts to the pain – pack our emotional baggage and move to the isle of invulnerability where nothing and no one can hurt us again.

We can paint on that Christmas smile, all the while numbing our pain with a little too much wine, the latest iPhone or the many other distractions life in America can offer us.

Both are alluring options, but in my experience (personal and otherwise), both are ultimately ineffective and damaging to our life with God and the relationships around us. I humbly want to offer a third counterintuitive and countercultural option:

What if we were to keep our hearts vulnerable and soft so that the Kingdom of God can come near? 

Really. It’s ALL OVER the Bible. Here are just a couple of the promises I’ve been clinging to lately:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:14

Yep. That’s me. And the Lord is near.

In fact, this whole season of Advent (which also means “arrival”) celebrates the “mission trip” that God took to be with us when we needed it the most:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). – Matthew 1:22-23

The unexpected truth of it is this: the times when God feels farthest away are when he is actually nearest.
So here are a few things I’m doing practically to take care of myself in this season:

I’m practicing honesty. Sometimes I feel like crying – hard. So I excuse myself and do that. The venom inside of me has to get out and crying is one of the ways it happens. But a lot of the time I don’t feel like crying, and so I don’t. I’m even allowing myself to chuckle at a funny memory of that good old guy. In the end, I am owning every tear but not forcing any tear.

I’m saying “No” a little more and allowing myself some time to heal. After doing this a couple of times with the passing of my mom and older brother, I had the good sense to let friends and co-workers know that I’m throttling back on my commitments a bit. There are things I’m still embracing and pursuing, but my calendar is a little clearer to divert that energy toward the surprisingly demanding work of rest and silence.

I’m practicing intentional gratitude. This can be tricky, and sometimes I really have to dig for it. But even in the pain and ugliness of the situation, I can pick out and be grateful for the experiences I never would have had if this man hadn’t been in my life. And I understand that some don’t have dads they can be proud of; but I’ve given my life to the proposition that even from that emptiness, Jesus offers a way forward into a future of meaning and hope.

I’m pursuing life-giving community. These are the people who have gone before me in my grief who will let me be where I am, but by their presence and experience-seasoned words gently remind me of God’s ultimate goodness.

Even when those we love cannot remain with us, there is a greater Love that does. And for those of us sharing in that time of loss, I bid you a restful and healing Christmas season.

Surviving the Holidays

The emotions that the holidays stir in a person who has experienced a loss are overwhelming. To help ease the emotional pain, grief and stress, we are offering a seminar of “Surviving the Holidays.” Happening at 7 p.m. on Dec. 13 at the Troy, Orion and Clinton Township campuses, you’ll learn:

– How to deal with the many emotions you face during the holidays
– What to do about traditions and other coming changes
– Helpful tips for surviving social events
– How to discover hope for your future

Please register by clicking on the location you want to attend: Troy Campus, Orion Campus or Clinton Twp. Campus

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Learning Labs

Experience a closer connection with God and His presence in your life while meeting others who are pursing the same.  Explore rhythms and practices that can help us abide in the love, grace and hope of God.

Please email discipleship@kensingtonchurch.org with any questions.

Clarkston

Orion

Birmingham Campus

We are offering a time for our congregation to gather after the 10am service for prayer in the Groves Auditorium, 20500 W 13 Mile Rd, Beverly Hills, MI 48025.

On Sunday evening, Dec 5, parents of high school and middle school students are invited to the second half of our Edge gathering at Genesis Church, 309 N Main St, Royal Oak, MI 48067, at 6:15pm. We will have a breakout to equip parents in caring for themselves and processing pain with their children in times of tragedy.

Parents & Student Resources

Parents – self care is critical. It’s important to do your own processing with another adult so that you can be more present as your child processes. Here are tools that you can use to get you started.

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Counselors Are Needed After Tragedy

“The aftermath of the Oxford shooting tragedy will undoubtedly result in traumatic symptoms and experiences across our communities for quite some time. Healing the brain through evidence-based therapies is absolutely possible with clinical guidance. There is a valuable village of Trauma Therapists with collective resources standing by for Oxford, for both direct and secondary survivors to engage in therapy. Until then, we honorably hold a sacred space, as students, families, staff and school partners continue to mourn.” -Laura Azoni, LMSW, Founder of Sanctuary Services

Orion Campus

We believe that unity at this time is more important than ever. Several churches in the area are partnering together to offer space for students to begin the process of healing.

We will have several grief and trauma specialists on site this Sunday evening at our Orion Campus (4640 S Lapeer Rd Lake Orion, MI 48359) from 5-6:30pm and will have a night of prayer, worship and an opportunity for students to process with each other.

Tate Myre Funeral:
Monday, 12.6 Visitation 1 to 8pm
Tuesday, 12.7 Visitation 10-12pm and funeral at Noon

Clinton Township Campus

We will be offering a time for our congregation to gather after each service for a time of corporate prayer in the Greatroom. Prayer will be offered at 10:15 am and 12:15 pm. (25000 Hall Rd, Charter Twp of Clinton, MI 48036)

This Sunday at 3:30 pm as a community we want to gather, pray and mourn together. We are all looking for answers and wondering why tragedy happens but we can find hope and peace in Jesus. 

Troy Campus

Join us Sunday night, December 5th for a Community Prayer Vigil at Kensington Church at 6:00 pm. Invite friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers to come together for a time of hope and prayer. 

Following the Vigil, at 7:00 pm, there will be breakouts for students and for parents to process and be equipped in caring for themselves and those around in times of tragedy.

Marriage Classes

What grows marriages? Focusing on the two of you and being in community!
The Marriage Course includes seven sessions, designed to help couples invest in their relationship and build a strong marriage. Some couples do the course to intentionally invest in their relationship, others are looking to address more specific challenges. Either way, the course offers essential tools and practical ideas to help you build a relationship that lasts a lifetime. The Marriage Course is based on Christian principles but designed for all couples with or without a church background.

Please email marriage@kensingtonchurch.org with any questions.

Financial Peace University (FPU)

Financial Peace University (FPU) is a catalyst to help people live in financial freedom and enable them to have a posture of openhandedness. We have witnessed numerous Kensington families experience life change as a result of applying Biblical truths to their personal finances. The real blessing is seeing people create lives of margin that allow them to hear and respond to the Lord’s calling on their lives.

Please email discipleship@kensingtonchurch.org with any questions.

Bible Basics

Whether you are brand new to the Bible or have been reading it for decades, Bible Basics is a course that will help you understand the overall flow of the Bible. Over the course of several weeks, learn how the Bible came from the original writers to the English versions we have today. We’ll look at the big-picture story of the Bible and how all the individual books add to the whole. We’ll even learn a little about the history of the Jewish nation. But most of all, we’ll grow in our awe of the amazing author of this amazing book!

Please email discipleship@kensingtonchurch.org with any questions.

All Campus

Clarkston

Clinton Township

Orion

Alpha

What is my purpose? What value does the Bible have in my life? How do I pray? How can I grow in confidence to share my faith? These are the big questions that are at the heart of what it means to have a relationship with God. Alpha is a space to explore life’s big questions, to say what you think and to hear other people’s points of view. Over ten-weeks you will explore and discover while listening to weekly topics, participating in table discussion, and developing community. Alpha courses meeting in-person gather around a meal.

You don’t have to come for the whole series—just check it out for the first session and see what you think. No pressure.

Please email discipleship@kensingtonchurch.org with any questions.

All Campus

Orion

Troy

Clinton Township

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For additional questions, please contact giving@kensingtonchurch.org or call 248.786.0637

GROUP LEADER DEVELOPMENT

Together Again

updated June 23, 2021

It’s been life-giving to be in-person for our weekend services since last July when we reopened. If you haven’t yet, we invite you to join us in person sometime soon.

Reservations and ticketing have been discontinued at all our campuses.

Masks are optional at all services, events, and ministry gatherings for kids, students, and adults. We know that everyone needs to make the right health decisions for themselves and their family, so if you feel comfortable removing your mask, you may. And if you’d like to continue wearing a mask or face covering, you may do that as well. This is a personal choice that only you can decide what is best for yourself when attending in person at Kensington.

If you are sick, are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or have possibly been exposed to COVID-19, please plan to stay home and participate in our services via our many online streaming options.

At the start of the pandemic, Kensington’s Executive Team commissioned a group of staff members as a COVID Task Force to establish protocols and procedures for the safety of our church community. Thanks for sticking with us throughout all the changes and adjustments over the past 15 months.

We’re grateful to be together again!